Public Prosecutor v Tse Nathan and Another

JudgeS Rajendran J
Judgment Date29 February 1992
Neutral Citation[1992] SGHC 45
Date29 February 1992
Subject MatterCriminal Procedure and Sentencing,Importing controlled drugs,Words and Phrases,Inference to be drawn from silence that accused knew substance was drugs,Accused arrested while on transit,Whether drugs were imported into Singapore,'Import',(follow title of statute: eg misuse of drugs act),Whether accused knew that substance strapped onto his legs was drugs,Defence,Accused called to enter defence and elects to remain silent,Criminal Law,ss 7 & 33 Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185),Import of controlled drugs,Statutory offences,s 7 Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185),Trials
Docket NumberCriminal Case No 36 of 1990
Published date19 September 2003
Defendant CounselVK Dube (Dube & Co),Freddy Neo (Neo & Wong)
CourtHigh Court (Singapore)
Plaintiff CounselJennifer Marie, Han Cher Kwang and Lim Keng Yeow (Deputy Public Prosecutors)

Nathan Tse Po Chung (`Tse`), the first accused, 29 years of age, and his woman companion Cheuk Mei Mei (`Cheuk`), the second accused, 26 years of age, both of whom were Hong Kong nationals, were charged for importing a substantial quantity of diamorphine into Singapore on 28 February 1989. The charge against them was that Tse imported 2,178g of diamorphine and Cheuk, 2,190.3g of diamorphine into Singapore without authorization in contravention of s 7 of the Misuse of Drugs Act (Cap 185) (`the Act`). The punishment for unlawful import of diamorphine for more than 15g is death under s 33 of the Act.

The evidence presented by the prosecution was that on 28 February 1989 at about 2.24pm, Tse and Cheuk arrived in Singapore by Thai International Airways flight TG405 from Phuket.
After the aircraft which brought them landed, they entered the transit lounge of the Singapore Changi Airport and remained there throughout. They did not make any attempt to pass through either the immigration or the customs counters. Their intention was to leave Singapore on the same day at about 9.55pm by fight KL838 departing from Singapore for Amsterdam. There was a booking on that flight for their intended departure.

A team of officers from the surveillance unit of the Singapore Customs and Excise led by Senior Customs Officer Michael Koh Keng Siang (PW23) and customs officers Tan Kay Hwa (PW24) and Juraimi bin Safie (PW21) kept close watch on both accused persons.
They were kept under surveillance from the time they stepped out of the arrival gate until about 4pm on that day when they were arrested and searched. The customs officers noticed that Tse was walking with a slight limp and his trousers were bulky at the calves. The front part of Cheuk`s trousers appeared bulky at the thigh region. The search conducted on their persons revealed that both of them had several blocks of white substance, 24 blocks on each person, wrapped in cellophane paper secured by elastic guards and strapped around their calves and thighs and some hidden in their shoes.

When questioned about the nature of the substance found to be concealed on their persons, Tse, who did not respond initially said eventually that it was `Pak Fun` which we are told is the Cantonese phrase for `white powder`, which in turn is commonly understood to be heroin by people familiar with the Cantonese dialect and by people in Hong Kong.

An issue was raised and contested with some vigour as to whether Tse uttered the phrase `Pak Fun`.
Counsel contended that Tse did not utter those words and that in any event, those words did not bear the meaning ascribed to them.We will return to that issue, whether such an utterance was made and if so, the purport and meaning of that particular phrase. Cheuk`s reply when asked about the substance discovered under her clothes was a simple `don`t know`.

Evidence given by Dr Saw Chwee Guan (PW3), a scientific officer from the Department of Scientific Services, was that the white substance seized from Tse contained 2,178g of diamorphine and the substance seized from Cheuk contained 2,190.3g of diamorphine.
The nature of the substance and the quantity ascertained by Dr Saw were not in any manner challenged.

Senior Narcotics Officer Teo Chin Seng (PW25) who was the investigating officer in this case took over the investigations shortly after 8pm on 28 February 1989.
After he had completed the routine including the labelling and securing of the substance seized, he proceeded to take statements from Tse and Cheuk in the early hours of 1 March 1989 between 2.25am and 3am. Charges under s 7 read with s 33 of the Act were read over to Tse and Cheuk. Both of them, pursuant to s 122(6) of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68) (`the CPC`) gave statements. The statement of Tse reads thus:

... I owed a moneylender known as `David` HK$30,000. `David` told me to bring something from Phuket to Holland and that he would not collect from me the HK$30,000 and in addition would pay me another HK$20,000. `David` did not tell me that it was heroin. I then agreed to bring something from Phuket to Holland.

(signed) (signed) (signed)


Cheuk also gave a statement as follows:

... My boyfriend `Fei Chye` owed a moneylender some money. He told me to accompany him to Thailand and if he did not go, he would be chopped to death by the moneylender. Later, `Fei Chye` was found not suitable for the trip because his body and thighs were too fat. The moneylender then told `Fei Chye` that he had found another partner who would accompany me to Thailand. By going for this trip, `Fei Chye` did not have to pay back the loan to the moneylender.

On 23 February 1989 at Hong Kong Airport, I was introduced to another male Chinese known as `Tse Po Chung`.
I was also told to accompany him to Thailand on the same flight. On 27 February 1989 we went to Phuket and on 28 February 1989 morning, a man unknown to me came to our hotel room and strapped something on both legs of myself and `Tse Po Chung`. This man never told us that it was heroin.

From Phuket, we flew to Singapore to connect another flight to Holland.
We were then arrested at Singapore Airport.

(signed) (signed) (signed)


Q: Who is `Fei Chye`...

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